Blood thickness can predict risk of COVID death - study

Researchers found that COVID-19 patients with a high blood viscosity had a 60% higher chance of dying than patients with a low blood viscosity. 

COVID-19 is seen in a blood vessel (Illustrative). (photo credit: TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY)
COVID-19 is seen in a blood vessel (Illustrative).
(photo credit: TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY)

A study out of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine published Monday in The Journal of the American College of Cardiology asserted that patients hospitalized with COVID-19 with high estimated blood viscosity are at an increased risk of complications.

What is blood viscosity?

Blood viscosity is a measure of blood's resistance to flow — also known as blood thickness or thinness. High viscosity is "thicker" blood while low viscosity is thinner. High blood viscosity negatively affects the body's ability to quickly and efficiently get blood to small vessels, and is directly correlated with blood clots. 

“This study demonstrates the importance of checking for blood viscosity in COVID-19 patients early in hospital admission, which is easily obtained through routine lab work. Results can help determine the best treatment course for at-risk patients and help improve outcomes.”

Dr. Robert Rosenson, study author

This peer-reviewed study was the first to examine blood viscosity's relationship to COVID-19 deaths. 

Researchers found that COVID-19 patients with a high viscosity of blood had a 60% higher chance of dying than patients with a low blood viscosity. 

 3D medical animation still showing reduced blood flow in preventing the heart muscle from receiving enough oxygen. (credit: Wikimedia Commons) 3D medical animation still showing reduced blood flow in preventing the heart muscle from receiving enough oxygen. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Implications for future COVID-19 treatment

When patients are admitted the hospital, doctors measure and monitor various proteins in the blood but rarely think to directly evaluate viscosity of blood and use it as a metric for treatment.

The data from this study could influence more hospitals to add viscosity of blood to electronic medical records and lab forms, hopefully improving the chances of survival for COVID-19 patients

“This study demonstrates the importance of checking for blood viscosity in COVID-19 patients early in hospital admission, which is easily obtained through routine lab work. Results can help determine the best treatment course for at-risk patients and help improve outcomes,” says Dr. Rosenson, author of the study. “We are currently investigating the effects of therapeutic heparin to reduce the risk of complications during acute COVID-19 infections, which may greatly benefit those with high blood viscosity.”